Saturday, March 1, 2014

Why Music Appreciation?

Historically music appreciation has been taught on the college level as what is called a "GenEd" or general education course for many years. It one of the required courses that a student may take to fulfill the fine arts requirement in many college curriculums.

John Knowles Paine was responsible for getting the course incorporated as a required course in the college curriculum during the 19th century . He was an early American composer and educator. What started out as an enrichment course at Harvard proved to be very successful.  As its popularity and value was realized it became a part of the core curriculum for Harvard students.

Each semester I tell my students they can blame Paine for the pain of music appreciation.


Regardless of the administrative reasons the course exists I have learned there is so much more to this course called music appreciation.

It is just like the child who sits and stares while the class sings songs around him and frustrating the teacher because she doesn't seem to be reaching him. Yet every night, according to his mommy's report, he sings all the time saying the "music teacher lady" (that would be me) taught him the songs.

Just like this child the music appreciation teacher doesn't always know how lesson content is being received by the students.

Blank stares are the norm.
Distracted, multitasking students are the norm.

Yet, some days acknowledgement that what is being taught is being heard...and shared.

Just a few highlights from this past week:

  • A student from last semester tweets that she misses music appreciation. My first response was "Really?" Then, though I realize she might miss the class for numerous reasons, a slow smile of satisfaction crept upon my face.

  • A current student shared with me how she knew the Hallelujah Chorus by Handel because she heard it sung at a singing Christmas tree program this past Christmas season. She also shared how she awkwardly stood with the rest of the audience while it was sung. I got to tell her how this long lived tradition had come about.

  • Another student was so moved by a graphic video portrayal of J.S. Bach's "Little Organ Fugue" that he'd left class and searched for it himself online so that he could watch it over and over again.

          You may watch it here:

          Pretty cool, huh?
  • Yet another student, upon hearing Vivaldi's "Spring" Movement 1 from The Four Seasons was prompted to by himself a violin. Yes, you heard me right: he BOUGHT a VIOLIN. He came to me wanting lessons. (I only know the very basics - we are in search of a teacher for him!)

         This is the video of Itzhak Perlman that inspired him:


Why music appreciation?

For this teacher these are but just a very few reasons why I teach it and enjoy teaching it:
Because it
  • exposes my students to new things
  • makes connections with other things, and
  • enriches their lives.

Yes, that is why.

1 comment:

  1. I had several teachers who taught music appreciation along with music classes in school, although it wasn't called by that name. I also had a special teacher who passed along her love and knowledge of music, my mother. I hope I have done the same for my sons.